Trinity (Apple II) review
"Infocom's text adventures were usually better at being funny than serious. For example, Zork I and II were better games than Zork III. But Trinity, based on your efforts to prevent the first atom bomb from exploding, works, and staggeringly well. It places you, as a tourist, in Kensington Gardens, with the first missile of World War III about to land. You find a deformed lady, take an interesting transport to the shore, and enter a white door you'll see again later, to wind up in a place ..."
Infocom's text adventures were usually better at being funny than serious. For example, Zork I and II were better games than Zork III. But Trinity, based on your efforts to prevent the first atom bomb from exploding, works, and staggeringly well. It places you, as a tourist, in Kensington Gardens, with the first missile of World War III about to land. You find a deformed lady, take an interesting transport to the shore, and enter a white door you'll see again later, to wind up in a place called the Wabe.
This surreal between-world connects to six other locations, depending on which white mushroom-door the world's sun reveals, the final one being Los Alamos in the forties. Animals seem to want something, a mysterious voice (you never do find its identity) encourages you vaguely, you have a Klein Bottle that disrupts the landscape, and you have other predators to dismantle. But here is the biggest puzzle: how do you get to the side locations and get back out, before an atomic bomb explodes there? Each one has a critical item and has even greater urgency than in Kensington Gardens. The first time in, you'll probably get stuck in these places. Then you'll solve one, or you'll think you'll solve one, and the door back to the Wabe will be blocked.
And that is a theme throughout the game of Trinity, that you can't quite do enough to change things exactly as they need to be. It's not the parser's fault, or yours, or society's. The items seem so hopelessly nonviolent, but often you have to use them against each other, or themselves, or animals in the Wabe. Communicating with animals nonverbally or forcing them to do certain things is important, and the descriptions clue you into what to do, up to some irregular verbs for a text adventure.
There will be places you know something's not quite right, where you know a puzzle is based on a popular myth or common knowledge, or even that you have limited turns to do B once you've done A, but you can't quite figure how to get through it. For example, in the Wabe, your game score from solving puzzles may initially rank you as a tourist. Then you solve a few puzzles, and you're an Explorer. Maybe you missed something in the seemingly-easy England scene?
As Trinity goes on, you meet characters and animals who will die after you jump back in the white doors. Some you'll kill yourself to reach the time-portal to Los Alamos, where you must sneak around the guards to disable the bomb. Even dying provides a clue to how to get there, and once you are, it becomes a race against time. This part is probably harder than the Wabe, and again, the radio voices as authorities track you down provide you with clues as to the ending. Shortly after disrupting the blast, you realize that you can only hope to contain the damage, just as at the other bomb sites.
If you can only play a few Infocom games, Trinity must be at the top, because it is an emotional polar opposite of everyone's favorite, Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Both start in England with the Earth's destruction imminent. They offer time travel, quirky puzzles, and well-imagined terrains. It relies on literature, in this case classic and not contemporary, but little else is similar. In Trinity, you generally avoid finger-pointing at the powerful and stupid, and you learn about death instead of clever slapstick trivia.
While both games end with a mixture of hope and futility, they couldn't be more different in how they get there. Trinity manages to be understated, to add the additional sense of helplessness of solving puzzles to what is already a difficult story--of the creation of the atom bomb, of how it seemed inevitable, and how much of it you can stop, with both time-travel technology and magic on your side. As it manages to steer clear of cold-war rhetoric or reactions to it, focusing on the ethereal Wabe and a hide-and-seek game against soldiers doing their duty, it is still relevant today.
Community review by aschultz (June 12, 2009)
Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.
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